Often, urban settings do not lend themselves to renewable energy sources. Cities typically do not have sprawling land to build a solar panel array, or space to construct a 300-foot-tall wind turbine to generate alternative energy. But this is about to change. Today, with new designs and technology emerging, there are more options than once existed to include renewable energy sources in urban design. Below, let’s examine some new technologies that can bring renewable energy to the urban landscape.
● Wind Power
In the past, wind power was not a practical source of energy for urban settings. Wind turbines were tall, cumbersome, and required a great deal of space to allow the turbine to not only spin freely, but collect enough wind uninhibited to allow the turbines to spin. However, new technology has developed mini-wind turbines. These small, super lightweight constructions can be implemented on, or even within, a building.
The World Trade Center building in Bahrain has included several of these lightweight wind turbines that can generate up to 15% of the building’s energy. Further, new building designs have been implemented to take full advantage of these new, smaller wind turbines. Buildings are being constructed with a curved glass facade that works to funnel the available wind into the mini-wind turbine location.
● Solar Power
Urban areas present a similar problem for what we traditionally view as solar power sources. Cities lack the acreage to set up a solar panel array. Until recently, the only real place for solar panels in the city was on the rooftops. While these solar panels certainly worked, they were subject to periods of clouds or rain, and were only able to produce a limited amount of energy.
New technology has emerged that is changing the renewable urban picture. Solar cells can now be made in a transparent material identical to glass. This allows solar panels to be fully integrated on the glass walls of buildings. Not only does this open the opportunity to integrate solar panels into more buildings, but these transparent solar cells can generate more solar energy compared to rooftop panels.
Further, scientists have created an adjustable solar cell. This means the cells can be adjusted for sunny climates to capture more rays at a shorter wavelength, or adjusted for cloudy climates to capture more rays at a longer wavelength. This new technology will not only allow more buildings to utilize renewable solar energy, but will allow a more efficient capture of available sunlight.
● Battery Technology
New battery technology is quickly allowing sustainable and renewable energy sources to be more efficient than ever before. Tesla recently announced the new Powerwall battery that will allow buildings to store excess energy and reuse the energy during cloudy or low-wind periods.
Further, flywheel technology is developing to use stored kinetic energy and recycle the energy throughout a building. This technology uses a series of spinning discs and rotating mechanical pieces to act as a battery. The benefit of flywheels is that often, the energy can be recalled at a rapid pace, even faster than with battery storage.
At Gausman & Moore, we care about renewable and sustainable energy sources. We are excited about staying on top of new technologies and are eager to see what is at the forefront of development.
If you’re in need of commercial mechanical, electrical, or plumbing engineering services, contact our team today!